Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tender Gender Blender

I just finished reading this fanfic which on the whole is very good and touched on a lot of interesting things, but I think it suffers to much from only seeing gender as binary. I have touched on before how I dislike society's idea of binary gender, that time focusing on sexual attraction. I even mentioned the anime of which this fanfic is based as a key point in my developing sexual feelings, and that remains true with sexual identity as well. The problem as I see it, exactly like my discussion of sexual attraction, is the more people try to insist male and female gender roles are different the more they will be different. The more people insist that there is a inner "male" or "female" self, the more people are trapped by this idea. The more people insist they are born into roles they can't change the less they will ever be able to. People are driven I think more by memes then they realize, more by ideas about who they should be inside. They build up ideal personae and feel uncomfortable when they don't match it. And let me make this clear, in regards to this story, I think it would have ended up the same way if it was discussed this way. But there is so much grief and angst caused by this binary idea of male and female, of what the character "should" do, and no one, not one single person ever seemed to bring up the possibility of remaining both male and female, that you didn't have to choose like that. I don't think it would have changed the outcome that much, but I think it would have led to a deeper, less forced, and less fearful way of looking at the problem. I was even talking with someone not to long ago that seemed to be struggling with a transsexual identity crisis, and even I had a small struggle with one at one point. The thing is though, there are so many things, like make up and high heals, that I wouldn't put up with, even if I think it would be nice to have a female body sometimes. There are so many things, like sports crap and being macho, I refuse to put up with even when I have a male body. I roleplay as female or hermaphrodite characters a lot, and I am curious about it, but I really feel like my "true self" is something that gender just doesn't apply to. I still would like to be female some time, not because I hate being male so much as because I would simply like the freedom to choose and try it. The way technology is, that is just not practical, and so I stay male. I am not a fan of my body truth be told, nor of my gender, but I just don't see it as that important. My life doesn't revolve around it. I know it's just not that easy for some people, but I am not saying people should not live in the body they feel is right for them, I am just saying there is a lot more to it then "really being" "male" or "female". It shouldn't be something you have to force yourself into becoming another person for, and if you want to be another person that desperately, there might be something more then just your sexual identity behind it. I guess the real issue I see is that it's such a muddled and abused subject, caught up with so many preconceptions and confused messages. If people could just change their sex whenever they wanted, I don't think it would be anywhere near of an issue, and people would just be able to try it out and pick one, or not pick one. And maybe someday, but now this whole drudge of issues comes in to play, and for what? If you have a penis or vagina? If you want to put on dresses and pretty yourself up, do you need to be a girl? If you want to lay in pants and t-shirts and watch the game do you need to be a guy? Do what you want and live how you want to live, do that first and then worry about your naughty bits or how you present yourself to people.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Drag On Quest

Been a while, would like to say I had been busy, but that would be a blatant lie. Though no one is probably going to read this anyway. Regardless I press on, in the vain hope that... you know what I don't even know, I guess I just like to read my own rantings. Well whatever, today is going to be another silly game rant! Hold on to your hats kids!

Way back for my birthday I got a copy of both DragonQuest V and VI. I already played though V and am probably most of the way though VI. And let me tell you it should be Drag on Quest, because the games sure love to drag on... but that is actually true of most RPGs. Random battles and dungeons really only exist as filler to pad out the story more then anything else, and there are lots of "talk to everyone to trigger the random event flag" parts. Not that RPGs can't be fun though. Anyway, I really can't be truly fair to the whole DragonWarrior/DragonQuest series, partly because these two games are the only two in the series that held my interest for very long (and even did with their original snes versions though V was not translated yet and VI I don't think I played that much). It still seems to me that the series has not really evolved too much. V and VI have some interesting gimmicks, and I am sure the newer ones do to, but the same semi-generic fantasy setting and story style seems to have gone unchallenged. It helps I think to compare the series to both the series it inspired, Final Fantasy, and the series it was inspired by, Ultima. Final Fantasy started off generic fantasy for the most part, but even the first game included a hint of steampunk in the airship and floating fortress, though it didn't really expand on that theme till Final Fantasy 6, at which point it started going crazy with the sci-fi stuff, and just got weird at Final Fantasy 10. Gameplay wise, Final Fantasy started with a class-system gimmick that really became refined and nice after Final Fantasy 5, and after Final Fantasy 7 decided to experiment with weirder and weirder gimmicks for ability systems. So by contrast, DragonQuest seems stick with it's own thing and tries to slowly refine it without sacrificing it's core gameplay or story foundations. And both approaches, wild experimentation and slow refinement work well, though I think I like Final Fantasy a bit more over all despite the series basically being bogged down in needless gimmicks and flashy cutscenes. Because when it works, like Final Fantasy 5, 6, and 7, it's really a fantastic experience.

Speaking of flashy cutscenes that's another big difference in tone. Final Fantasy is block buster type excitement with explosions and flashiness and lots of anime melodrama, where DragonQuest seems to be a lot subtler. That isn't to say Final Fantasy is a mindless Michal Bay-style farce, nor is it to say it's style over substance. Nor is DragonQuest free from some drama and interesting stuff. It's just Final Fantasy seems to try and be more movie-like and visually engaging, where DragonQuest seems to try and be more novel-like, where information is presented to you more as text and conversation. And again both methods work, though I might argue Final Fantasy's method works better for RPGs, simply because there is a lot more motivating the player from moment to moment.

Ultima on the other hand is not quite as simple a comparison. The Ultima games the DragonQuest series most resembles are Ultima 3, 4, and 5 though which inspired the series I am not sure. Regardless, Ultima 6 and up completely went in a whole new direction, becoming the ancestor of modern sandbox RPGs like The Elder Scrolls (though I like the Ultima games better, more personality). Regardless, Ultima became popular in japan for some reason (they even have an exclusive fully voiced version of Ultima 6, though the voice work isn't that good) and DragonQuest was probably conceived as a simplified Ultima clone. To be honest, I am not entirely sure if 3, 4 or 5 was the main inspiration. Ultima 4 and 5 attempted to evolve RPGs past "go kill the bad guy" plots, which was basically what the first DragonQuest game was. Though 5 sort of did come close to being one of those types of plot. Really Ultima 5 resembles a Final Fantasy game plot-wise almost, and was probably the first attempt at a really involving dynamic story.

Anyway, the first DragonQuest game basically was a striped down simplified Ultima in the same way the first Final Fantasy was a striped down simplified DragonQuest. Combat was changed from an overhead grid-based step-by-step movement system to a system that eliminated all movement and just showed the pictures of the enemies you face, and let you choose attacks. This simplistic battle set up has continued throughout the series and pops up in a lot of other JRPGs as well. Eventually the DragonQuest series would add much more animation. Final Fantasy changed it to side view with mostly static monsters and animated players which really looks a whole lot better, and added the ATB system as well, but even still I think turn based battles lose something when there isn't any movement. Though having this simplified approach meant you could just hold down the button to select attack and grind much easier, it also encouraged grinding a bit too much I think.

Personally my favorite battle system has to be in Ultima 6, where unlike the previous Ultima games, you didn't need to switch screens for combat, and could switch between combat mode and non-combat mode at any time. It made combat part of the rest of the game world, flowing so seamlessly there was hardly a difference (in fact the only difference was how your party members acted and the music). It's also the Ultima where they started focusing less on hack and slash and more on world simulation, where almost every object, even decorative ones, can be picked up or interacted with. It's kind of a shame the older Ultimas inspired DragonQuest more then the newer. To Be honest I didn't like the Ultima's before 6 all that much, because I found them overly tedious. DragonQuest streamlined the combat, but this really just streamlined the tedium.

As for story, the Ultima games are more or less direct sequels to one another that built up a long deep continuity (most of which isn't all that important, just little callbacks and conversations and such, but still) and I think DragonQuest started doing that, but I am not sure if they abandoned it later or not. DragonQuest V and VI seem to have a few place names and objects in common but not much else, though I read they are part of a trilogy in the same world. Final Fantasy of course discards continuity all together, but has lots of repeating monsters/names/weapons/summons/spells and such. Setting wise, Ultima starts out in standard medieval fantasy mode and aside form some slight sci-fi elements emerging in the early games that have been long abandoned, stays there until Ultima 7 which takes a slight shift to a more renaissance themed setting. The interesting thing about Ultima compared to DragonQuest and Final Fantasy is that the fantasy setting and the monsters really start to take a back seat to a slightly more mundane setting. Magic and monsters are still there, they just become far less important. In DragonQuest, and to a lesser extent in Final Fantasy, monsters usually are active antagonists, and magic is a powerful force for both good or evil. In Ultima by contrast, monsters are mostly mindless beasts, and the ones that aren't usually are on your side, or at least willing to talk it out. Magic in Ultima is more utilitarian, though you see powerful death spells (and one who can basically kill everyone on the planet), they aren't involved in the plot that much, and most magic users are healers or scholars who don't tend to be involved in combat or use their spells for all that much. DragonQuest and Final Fantasy are, more or less, escapist fantasy quests, and Ultima, while it may have started that way, after Ultima 3 the series really tried to not be that.

Though I still enjoy DragonQuest V and VI a lot, I just kind of wonder what they would have been like if DragonQuest took more after the later Ultimas instead. Oh well, that's just the way it goes.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Legend of The Legend of Zelda

For Christmas, along with some other games, I received The Legend of Zelda the Ocarina of Time 3D for my 3DS. I have been playing it off and on since then, when I haven't be distracted by my latest mush obsession (this time with less creativity and more game, though you can still submit monsters and stuff... I did one myself, and I even coded the pull down menus on the site).

The new 3d version is pretty neat, though I end up playing with the 3d off most of the time. It's main draw for me is the higher res textures and better visuals that make the game look some much better then the blurry lowres N64 version. Other then that it doesn't look like much has changed, but then I probably wouldn't know because I actually, shockingly enough, haven't played much of it. Partly it was because I lacked a N64 when it came out, being more of a Playstation guy. But mostly it's that I, even more shockingly, just don't like the game all that much.

This is not to say I think it's a bad game, because I am enjoying it quite a lot, I just don't rank it highly as one of 'the best games evar' for various reasons. Probably the biggest is that I simply don't think it plays very much like a Zelda game should. This probably seems like an odd complaint, given that it has become THE standard for what Zelda has become, but when compared to the 2D Zeldas, there is a huge difference in controls and combat, though honestly yes, the 2D Zeldas have way too simplistic combat. Oddly enough the 3D game I think comes the closest to replicating the feel and style of the 2D Zelda games isn't a Zelda game at all, but instead is a quirky little gem by square called Brave Fencer Musashi. Not that I hate Ocarina of Time's gameplay, but it feels a bit too cumbersome and clunky when switching targets and dealing with the camera. I do like that combat is a bit more involved then 'flail your sword around' but it just doesn't feel that natural to me.

Story wise it's pretty much an expansion and retelling of the back story form A Link to the Past. It does change things around a bit and vastly expand on Ganondorf's backstory, making him an actual character instead of a vague threat, which I like a lot. All and all I like the story even if it was a bit basic but at the same time I was not really invested into it. It's main gimmick is pretty much the same as A Link to the Past but replacing the Light World and Dark World with two time periods. It's semi-sequel Majora's Mask on the other hand I absolutely loved to death because pretty much from the start your drawn deeper and deeper into an emotional roller coaster, and it's gimmick of reseting time and working on a schedule was new and innovative to me. I really hope they make a 3DS remake of Majora's Mask too.

Lastly one of my big gripes is that the world is so small and cramped, or feels that way compared to some earlier 2D games. I like the fact they made the hub area Hyrule Field so big and expansive, but honestly that only makes the rest of the game look more cramped. I liked the open exploration of the first Zelda a lot, and it took until The Wind Waker to really make exploring the overworld interesting again, though in a limited way (I am not sure if Skyward Sword continues this trend, but I hope so).

I am enjoying myself with Ocarina of Time 3D though. It's not a bad game at all, I just think it could be better. But I think that about almost every game.

Monday, November 28, 2011

MUCKing about.

I started a new medication a while ago, and for whatever reason, since I started taking it I have felt especially... playful. So I started hanging out on internet chatrooms with furries a lot role-playing involving some fairly extreme fetishes. Sometimes I fear I man be way to close to being a furry myself. Though I am not exclusively attracted to anthropomorphic animals, it is among the things I am attracted by (which to be fair, is nearly everything), and it is nice to have a group with so many... open-minded members.

It was when I was exploring this little dark underbelly of internet culture, that I was alerted to Voregotten Realm. Voregotten Realm is a MUCKwhich is a particular kind of text-based virtual world. And it's primarily focused on vore. What is vore you might ask? Basically eating people. Though there is a bit more to it then that. Although I am not really a fan of vore (Though I am a fan of unbirthing, which is a type of vore), there is a lot of other sexual stuff going on there too.

But what has occupied most of my time I think, is the building and scripting. Simply put, you can basically make anything you want. In some ways it reminds me of a text-based Second Life (which I already talked about). I have gotten quite good at the lisp-like MPI scripting that it uses, though I haven't touched the more advanced MUF scripting stuff.

Honestly Voregotten Realm's biggest problem is there is just not enough people on. Which is a shame because it has a lot of neat features. One of the most interesting I think are the "vp" and "wixxx" commands that basically let a player tell people what kinks they are into and what they are not. It also has a lot of interesting features I like. I also like the "bellyroom" system it uses to define what happens when you swallow someone, and works with... multible orifices. It also supports full ansi color on everything. I did try checking out another MUCK with more people called Tapestries (though I was slightly miffed that you cannot play a human, and I didn't really want to be a furry all the time, so I became a slime creature) but it isn't anywhere near as advanced, and most of my scripting I did broke. It's still pretty fun sometimes for just role-playing.

I think another problem though is MUCKs aren't so much games as scripted chatrooms. And while I do like the freedom of play compared to MUDs, it also leaves a bit less to do, especially if no one is on or you can't find anyone to roleplay with. Honestly I am tempted to script an optional combat system (or make one with the bellyroom system) just to have a bit more game that people can play if they want to. It seems more reasonable to have a creative role-playing with optional gaming extras then the reverse.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Internet Art is Deviant

The other day I uploaded a new picture to my deviantart account which is in of it's self is a rare enough occurrence and has a long enough of a rambling nonsensical description that it might be worth a blog post of it's own (you might be interested in the picture or description if your interested in my silly romhack). In fact I am not sure how many people even know or remember I have a deviantart account. It's certainly not something I pay a lot of attention too. In fact, I mostly only got it to be able to view mature images and decided to upload a few of the old things I had laying around there.

Part of the reason for my lack of attention is because I have long ago given up on ever being an artist, since the only art I seem to be capable of making is either simple pixel art or stuff about on par with the pictographs I use on this blog (minus the ones that are blatantly traced). Most of the work I have in my deviantart account is either collage work or pixel art (and the new picture I put up counts as both), and none of it is very engaging I think. But another big part is because I am very apathetic about sites like deviantart in general and the type of art usually hosted on them.

Now I make no secret of the fact that I like porn, mainly hentai, cartoon, and furry smut, all of which is drawn art rather then actual live action porn. But Outside of x-rated art though I find I very rarely take a interest in much art online. But there is another side to it too. I quite like art used in comics, videos, games, and such, x-rated or not (but it's still better as smut, of course). Really it's only static images that usually fail to hold my interests without smut.

I think the thing is, when a artist draws fanart, or even original art, of random characters who sit there and look pretty, it seems to lack any real context or point. It just becomes a image. It doesn't move me, it doesn't inspire me, it's just there. There are exceptions to this of course, especially for interesting landscapes or interesting character design, but mostly it seems to run a little flat. Smut of course gives me a reason to care for more then the image it's self, but it has to be real hardcore stuff. Simply having a pretty girl doesn't do much for me, and sexy pinup poses rarely work either. Sometimes nudity isn't even enough. I guess I have just been exposed to so much really smutty stuff that it takes more to really wind me up.

Having a story or a game to go along with the art does the same for the mind as smut does for the body. It gives me a reason to really care more then just pretty pictures. And it works in reverse too, in that the art that goes along with the story or game gives the story or game more style and helps craft the world with the art. In fact, music acts much the same way in this regard. I am not quite as interested in music when it's just music, but when the music is put in to enhance a story or a game, it becomes a lot more powerful (but music and sex results in too much bad techno). But I suppose a lot of the time, at least with art, there is usually a story there I don't know about. A lot of original characters made by online artists seem to have roots in roleplaying chats or in progress works of fiction (in fact so does Jiggles, on both counts), and a lot of fan works seem to focus on exploring different aspects or ideas not seen in the original work (homestuck fan works tend to do a great job at that sometimes).

But as I said, I am not an artist, I do not know the mediums and techniques, and I tend not to pay that much attention to style or ability aside from a vague sense of aesthetics and some basic skill. I probably just don't appreciate all of the details that people tend to obsess over in art. I like well done art better then sloppy and badly proportioned art, but I can't say that's something I look for so much as something I notice when done wrong.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Medication Misappropriation Mitigation

Note: Anyone here from smwcentral, or who doesn't care about it, can skip the first paragraph bellow if they want, it's mostly background info on this blog post.

There is a sub-forum on smwcentral that I often find myself drawn to for reasons that sometimes elude even me. It's basically a place for people to discuss real life issues which usually degenerates into emotional teens angsting over weather they should talk to a girl (hint: if your that torn up about it maybe your too emotionally immature to handle a relationship), although lots of people do bring up real issues. So, since I happen to have a real life problem (as opposed to the many nitpicks and gripes I have with various works of fiction, and political rants that no one cares about), I decided "Hey, why don't I post about my issue! It will give me an excuse to do more then bank my head on the desk at stupid teens and try to come up with meaningless advice for issues that don't have an easy solution!" So I started to write down my issue, and ended up with something much longer and less on topic then I intended. So I decided to post a short version and dump most of it here instead. This isn't the first time this has happened. And honestly if I keep making rants like this one it may be better off to do it more often or use PMs (I am sticking by my decision to post that there for now, even if I could have handled it better).

Anyway, I have been feeling sick lately. And when I mean feeling sick, I mean feeling dizzy and nauseous instead of just the headaches and sinus problems I have been having for years. I am pretty sure I know why I am sick too. About a month ago, I started taking Ritalin (or to be more exact a generic equivalent). Which I should add, was my idea. Yeah yeah, I know it was pushed on a bunch of kids that didn't need it, but it still has it's uses. I suggested it as a possible replacement to Adderall (again, a generic equivalent) that I dropped because I don't feel it was helping me.

I felt sick then, and didn't feel it was having the intended effect and wasn't exactly sure the sickness wouldn't go away as I got used to it. So this month, I doubled the dose and planed to drop it at the end of the month if I didn't have better results. I may stop it earlier then that now actually, but I think I can hold out till then.

It should be worth noting that I was long ago diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome (insert hugbox joke here). But really, I long ago decided Asperger's syndrome is just too broad and vague a label to treat, so I have mostly been just focusing on seeing if there is a drug to help me overcome my crippling inability to get shit done.

Said inability I contribute to the following factors:
  • Lack of focus.
  • Lack of satisfaction in completing tasks.
  • Pessimistic thinking.
  • Getting obsessive about minor details.
  • Dissociative thinking.
  • General inability to emotionally invest in things

So I am wondering if there is I haven't tried (Prozac, Wellbutrin, Adderall, Ritalin) that has helps with these problems. Because if not, I think I will just give up on drugs for now until some magical drug comes along and fixes all my problems. And maybe also a drug to transform by body into that of a little girl. Because heck, while we are on the subject of unrealistic wish fulfillment, why think small?

You know what the thing is though? I don't think I am actually "depressed" as such. Maybe I am medically depressed, as in my brain chemistry is out of whack, but I am not suicidal, I am pessimistic about the outcome of tasks but not about much else, and despite having to put up with a host of daily annoyances I think at the end of the day life is worth it. I contribute all this to a generally affirming philosophical outlook on life.

So it just goes to show, bullshit philosophical nonsense has more to do with your outlook on life then you might think.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Social Noise Reduction

There is a particularly common criticism of today's society I hear a lot. I am not sure what the term for it is, but I think it is a core part of the larger ideas of Postmodernism and Cyberpunk. The criticism is that nowadays, thanks mostly to the internet and mass media, people are bombarded with so many opinions, alleged facts, works of fiction, ideas, and memes, that people have become either terminally unable to separate the "signal" from the "noise" in the information we process, and/or are incressingly distracted by the trivial.

And yeah, I can see that. But before we go around claiming Ludd was right and throwing out all our communication technology, maybe we should consider that maybe PEOPLE are the problem, not the information. First of all, I think the problem with people being unable to tell the difference between fact and fiction is simply that most people don't have the critical thinking skills needed to parse information in an optimal way. What's more, most people don't have a broad enough perspective to realize that sometimes it doesn't even matter. People are often more interested in picking a side and being right then anything else. Sometimes, especially with controversial or heavily contested subjects, you just have to admit that some things may or may not be true. This doesn't mean you can't draw conclusions, you just need to think about logic in a different way.

As for people being distracted by the trivial, I actually take it as a sign that what a lot of people say is important, isn't really that important to a lot of people. That doesn't mean it isn't important in the grand scheme of things, but people so rarely look or care about the the grand scheme of things. I think, for example, kids getting distracted from school by video games is not a problem with the games. It's a problem with the school or maybe the parents. People shutting themselves in and playing MMORPGs all day is not a problem with the MMORPG. It's a problem with our society. As for the people who get distracted themselves, it's hard for me to make an argument that they are at fault if they honestly don't care. I mean, yeah, they are doing it to themselves but that is a choice. They pay the consequences for that choice. Though I may be bias because that is more or less what I am doing, allowing myself to get distracted fully understanding that there is a price to pay. Some times it's worth it, sometimes it's not.

I feel personally, like I have spent the last ten or so years of my life mostly just gathering information and working it out in my head. Trying to build a sort of cathedral of images and thoughts in a manner similar to how Carl Jung worked out his issues by writing his Red Book. I have been interested in that sort of thing for a while, probably ever since I was a kid and saw parts of The Wall, and perhaps even before that with my childhood games of imagination.

But, Carl Jung stressed the need to write these things down, so that they become contained and objectified, and I have done very little in the way of actual writing and art. I have a powerful urge to do so, which is part of what my hack was intended to do actually. To give my ideas and outlet and to make them more 'real' so to speak. I suppose in the back of my mind, there is a third criticism of today's society that saps me of the motivation to do much work on it. And that criticism is that there is so much of that kind of stuff out there. Stuff that both intentionally and unintentionally explores these themes I want to explore. And while they might not do it in the same way, they cover a lot of the same ground.

Lately I have been reading a lot of random webcomics and watching videos of a lot of random games. And it gets to the point where there are just so many works of fiction with so many themes and ideas, that even if a few of them still make me take notice of something or reevaluate my ideas slightly, I don't really think there is much room for me. Which is a stupid way of looking at it really. I talk all the time about being the butterfly that starts the storm, of how I would be happy if my ideas were remembered even if I were not. After all, I am sitting here writing this in a blog that I am not sure anyone actually takes the time to read. And maybe this blog is like my red book. Maybe blogging in general will help people deal with there problems just knowing, even if it is never read, that it is out there somewhere for people to randomly find.

I can always hope, and I guess hope is enough to live on.